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Detecting Gold Biomineralization by Delftia acidovorans Biofilms on a Quartz Crystal Microbalance

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posted on 12.11.2019, 15:33 by Riccardo Funari, Rosa Ripa, Bill Söderström, Ulf Skoglund, Amy Q. Shen
The extensive use of gold in sensing, diagnostics, and electronics has led to major concerns in solid waste management since gold and other heavy metals are nonbiodegradable and can easily accumulate in the environment. Moreover, gold ions are extremely reactive and potentially harmful for humans. Thus, there is an urgent need to develop reliable methodologies to detect and possibly neutralize ionic gold in aqueous solutions and industrial wastes. In this work, by using complementary measurement techniques such as quartz crystal microbalance (QCM), atomic force microscopy, crystal violet staining, and optical microscopy, we investigate a promising biologically induced gold biomineralization process accomplished by biofilms of bacterium Delftia acidovorans. When stressed by Au3+ ions, D. acidovorans is able to neutralize toxic soluble gold by excreting a nonribosomal peptide, which forms extracellular gold nanonuggets via complexation with metal ions. Specifically, QCM, a surface-sensitive transducer, is employed to quantify the production of these gold complexes directly on the D. acidovorans biofilm in real time. Detailed kinetics obtained by QCM captures the condition for maximized biomineralization yield and offers new insights underlying the biomineralization process. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study providing an extensive characterization of the gold biomineralization process by a model bacterial biofilm. We also demonstrate QCM as a cheap, user-friendly sensing platform and alternative to standard analytical techniques for studies requiring high-resolution quantitative details, which offers promising opportunities in heavy-metal sensing, gold recovery, and industrial waste treatment.